Flu claims 12th victim as death toll doubles
TOLL: Over 40 patients are still being treated in intensive care
Six more people have died from flu, bringing the number of victims this winter to 12.
The HSE expects further deaths to be confirmed in the coming weeks when tests have been completed and the deaths formally classified as being flu- related.
Some 43 people remain in intensive care because of the flu. So far this season 98 people have been admitted to critical care units, according to the latest update from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
An infant was among the victims and seven were in the 15-64 age group. Four were aged 65 or older.
Two deaths occurred in the south, two in the west and eight in the east. All but one of those who died so far have had underlying conditions.
One person died this week, five last week, four the previous week and one each in the last week of 2010 and the first week of 2011.
Meanwhile flu rates in the five-to-14 year age group show no signs of abating, but there has been a drop in the rate for all other age groups for the second week in a row.
HPSC figures indicate that the current flu outbreak has peaked and "is now declining".
In the past week, 23 new cases were reported in the 0-4 age group, 64 in the 5-14 age group, 156 in the 15-64 age group and seven cases in those aged 65 and over.
The HPSC says the infection rate for young people "remains significantly lower than those reported during the pandemic period in 2009-2010".
Infection rates for the past week were 110.4 per 100,000 population -- down from a rate of 171.4 the week before.
This means that nearly 5,000 new cases of flu were reported in the past week compared to 7,700 the previous week.
Altogether 749 people of the 1,677 diagnosed with flu like illness have been hospitalised. Seven in 10 of those admitted to intensive care had underlying conditions such as lung or heart disease, immunosupression and metabolic disorders.
Some 68 pregnant women were diagnosed with flu and 41 of these were admitted to hospital -- 38 with swine flu and three with influenza B.
Swine flu is still the most predominant form of flu infection in the country accounting for just under 60pc of all cases last week.
Cluster outbreaks of the infection have happpened in a maternity hospital, four schools, a residential institution and a prison.